The most popular cat breed in Japan has clinched the title for the twelfth consecutive year. 

While International Cat Day this year is August 8, Cat Day (“neko no hi”) is celebrated annually on February 22 in Japan. This date came about thanks to a fun play on words–two is pronounced “ni” in Japanese, and the sound that a cat makes is “nyan” (not “meow”). Therefore, 2/22 sounds like “nyan nyan nyan.”

In celebration of this year’s big day, Japanese pet insurance company Anicom compiled data from 37,819 newly enrolled felines less than one year old to determine the most popular recent cat names and breeds in Japan. Let’s check out the results of the sampling below!

Overall ranking of cat names (katakana)

▼ Ranking-name-number (numbers in parentheses in the ranking column denote the name’s place in last year’s ranking)

Note that names written in phonetic katakana script could have multiple possible meanings. We’ve included several sample English meanings for more ambiguous names. 

10. Rei (bell, zero, spirit)
9. Kinako (roasted soybean flour)
8. Rin (bell, cold)
7. Maron (French for chestnut)
6. Momo (peach)
5. Koko (short for cocoa)
4. Maru (circle, common suffix in Japanese names)
3. Sora (sky)
2. Reo (Leo)
1. Mugi (wheat, barley)

Mugi just barely edged out Reo to take first place in the overall ranking. As “mugi” denotes a light brown or amber color, it’s a popular name for both male and female cats. Its rise in popularity could also have been influenced by 22-year-old Japanese singer-writer Mugi the Cat, who shot to fame last year. Sora, last year’s overall winner, came in third place this year.

▼ Clip from Mugi the Cat’s “Kimi ni ai ni” (2019)

Top names for male cats (katakana)

▼ Ranking-name-number (numbers in parentheses in the ranking column denote the name’s place in last year’s ranking)

10. [tie] Haru (spring)
10. [tie] Kotaro (male first name)
9. Ten (dot, heavens)
8. Fuku (good fortune)
7. Maron (French for chestnut)
6. Reon (Leon)
5. Mugi (wheat, barley)
4. Kotetsu (small iron)
3. Maru (circle, common suffix in Japanese names)
2. Sora (sky)
1. Reo (Leo)

The top three names for male cats all maintained their same ranking from last year! Leo has also been the male name winner for three years in a row now. Its enduring popularity is perhaps attributed to the legacy of Osamu Tezuka‘s manga and 1965 anime series Jungle Emperor (English name: Kimba the White Lion) about a young white lion named Leo (Kimba).

▼ Leo is also a popular cat name around the world. Here’s a Leo from the U.S. at your service!

Top names for female cats (katakana)

▼ Ranking-name-number (numbers in parentheses in the ranking column denote the name’s place in last year’s ranking)

10. Nana (seven, greens)
9. Sakura (cherry blossom)
8. Mei (brightness)
7. Hana (flower)
6. Runa (Luna)
5. Kinako (roasted soybean flour)
4. Rin (bell, cold)
3. Koko (short for cocoa)
2. Mugi (wheat, barley)
1. Momo (peach)

Interestingly, Momo has also been the female name winner for three consecutive years. Food and nature terms seem to be the top picks when naming female felines in Japan. In addition, Sakura has been an enduringly popular name for human babies over the past 30 years!

▼ There’s something intrinsically cute and soft-sounding about the name Momo.

Top names for male and female cats (kanji)

▼ Ranking-name-number (numbers in parentheses in the ranking column denote the name’s place in last year’s ranking)

5. [tie] Daifuku (rice cake filled with bean jam)
5. [tie] Kotetsu (small iron)
4. Kohaku (amber)
3. Sora (sky)
2. Fuku (good fortune)
1. Chachamaru (tea [duplicated] and name suffix maru)

5. Koume (small plum)
4. Mugi (wheat, barley)
3. Chacha (tea [duplicated])
2. Rin (cold)
1. Hime (princess)

In contrast to names written in katakana, names written in kanji indicate a definite meaning. For both male and female names, the top three overall picks have stayed the same since last year but have shifted in order. What we might call an orange cat in English is usually referred to as a tea-colored cat in Japanese, which explains its popularity for both sexes on the list.

▼ A Google search of “cha neko” (tea cat) turns up hundreds of images of cats with an overall orange coloring.

Top cat breed ranking

▼ Ranking-breed-number-percentage (numbers in parentheses in the ranking column denote the breed’s place in last year’s ranking)

10. Russian Blue
9. Maine Coon
8. Bengal
7. Ragdoll
6. British Shorthair
5. Norwegian Forest Cat
4. Mixed breed
3. American Shorthair
2. Munchkin
1. Scottish Fold

For the twelfth year in a row, Scottish Folds take the cake in Japan. Second-place Munchkins are also exceedingly popular due to their short legs and endless variations in terms of fur coloring and patterning. It’s nice to see that mixed breeds were given a nod within the top five as well.

▼ Scottish Folds’ forward-folding ears are quite irresistible…

Will Leo and Momo prevail again next year? Can any other felines knock Scottish Folds off their throne? We’ve got a whole year ahead of us until Cat Day again so let’s kick back and be entertained by the antics of Japan’s most famous feline Maru until then.

Source: PR Times
Featured image: Pakutaso
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: SoraNews24, Pakutaso (1, 2, 3)
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